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10th May 2016

Fluorspar

Flurospar

What is Fluorspar and Where Do I Use It?

  • Fluorspar is the commercial name for the naturally occurring mineral fluorite, composed of calcium and fluorine (CaF2).
  • Fluorspar is the predominant commercial source for the chemical element fluorine.
  • Fluorine is a non-metallic element and the lightest of the halogens and therefore largely irreplaceable in its use.
  • There are two principal commercial grades of fluorspar: Metallurgical grade (60-96% CaF2); and acid grade (+97% CaF2).
  • Metallurgical grade fluorspar accounts for approximately 40-45% of total fluorspar production with the principal applications being:
    • Steel production – used as a flux to lower the melting temperature and increase the chemical reactivity to help the absorption and removal of sulphur, phosphorus, carbon and other impurities in the slag;
    • Cement – used as a flux to speed up the calcination process and enables the kiln to operate at lower temperatures.
  • Acid grade fluorspar accounts for approximately 55-60% of total fluorspar production with the principal applications being:
    • Aluminium production – used to produce aluminium fluoride (ALF3) which acts as a flux to lower the bath temperature in the manufacture of aluminium;
    • Manufacture of hydrofluoric acid (HF) – the primary source of all fluorochemicals (the single largest consumer of fluorspar), a wide range of applications include: Fluorocarbons e.g. refrigerant gases, propellants, etc; Metallurgical industry (extraction, manufacture and processing); Petrochemical catalysts; Electrical and electronic appliances; Lithium batteries; and Pharmaceuticals, polymers and agrochemicals.

Where is Fluorspar Produced and Consumed?

  • World production of fluorspar: 6.0Mt – 6.5Mt per year
    • Major producing regions: China (>50% of the world’s production); Mexico; Mongolia/CIS; Vietnam and South Africa;
    • Major consuming regions (highest to lowest): China; Europe; North America; and Russia/CIS.

Specific Issues for Fluorspar

  • China produces >50% of the world’s fluorspar. No large scale commercial alternative
  • Chinese exports have declined substantially since 2000 – internal demand and production/export restrictions.
  • China may become a net importer in the future.
  • North America and Europe are the largest acid-spar consumers outside China, all net importers – potential risk to long term security of supply.

Source: Tertiary, Industrial Minerals Magazine, US Geological Survey, Roskill, UN Comtrade, CRU, Eurofluor

Applications

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Reviewed by

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Tertiary Minerals PLC